With Salzar dead and Potifol in custody, Master Andelac Borsari thanks the three for taking the captives before the Prince, and encourages them to make haste; he has his hands full with finding housing and pasture for Whiteknees’ now rootless servants and livestock, and it’s clear that he’s noticed Ivella’s increasingly more daring efforts to spend private time with Ettorio. They commandeer a cart to take their three captives — Potifol, Dorego and Crevant — and bring the bandit Carpa along with them, free of shackles. They arrive at the Coiling Snapdragon towards the end of the first day, and agree to stop there to rest. However, trouble arrives at roughly the same time.
Interlude: A few days ago, when the four guests of Borsari went hunting the Spotted Cats, a nervous Captain Crevant decided to put some contingency plans into effect. First he sent the quartermaster Baligond to follow the four, to ensure that even if they were successful that they would be “tragically slain” by the bandits. Second, he sent a trusted lieutenant Tubo off to hire a second squad of muscle. With Tubo went Carenza Vega, a Scarhawk who had been concealing her considerable talent from her superiors. Somewhat suspicious of the turns the job had been taking, Carenza persuaded the captain to send her as additional muscle. The two rode a couple of days down the road, where Tubo offered a small fee and a promise of more gold to come to the infamous mercenary dwarf group called the Tallytakers. With these brutes secured, the two returned to rendezvous with the rest of the Scarhawks.
As Opilio unloads the last piece of baggage from the cart, he notices two soldiers in Scarhawk colors approaching the inn, a small band of dwarves behind them. They in turn recognize him, and Tubo is not thrilled to note that he still lives. Opilio pretends not to take note, and enters into the tavern portion of the Snapdragon where Ettorio is persuading the staff that the presence of shackled prisoners is entirely legal, and not a sign of mayhem to come. As the staff departs, Opilio leans in and informs Ettorio and Vesper that mayhem is coming anyway.
Tubo, Carenza and the Tallytakers march into the Snapdragon before the three “adventurers” are able to put their plans to keep any fights outside into effect. The Scarhawks gape at the sight of Crevant a captive, and his signature breastplate adorning the immense peasant (who is awkwardly trying to conceal it). Ettorio informs them that the Scarhawks are dead or scattered, and Carenza demands some explanation from Tubo. Unfortunately, before Tubo can be convinced to walk away, the Tallytaker leader Brazenborn demands to know just how he’s going to be paid. His asking price? 500 gold reganti. Ettorio emphasizes that either the dwarves can walk away now and not get paid, or they can take it up with the captive Crevant and not get paid. The spike-armored Brazenborn proposes a third option: beat the interfering troublemakers into paste, take what they can from the corpses, and if it’s not the 500 reganti, it’ll still be more than nothing. Wanting nothing to do with the mayhem, Tubo slips out the door — a nod from Brazenborn, and a Tallytaker armed with a crossbow steps out after him. Carenza immediately moves to strike at the dwarf, and hell breaks loose.
Carenza duels the dwarven bolter on the porch while Tubo runs to escape. Ettorio opens a duel with Brazenborn, who immediately proves he’s a dangerous sort (“I hate looking at symmetrical faces,” the dwarf growls before striking the Iluni). Opilio transforms and throws himself into the fight with the bulk of the Tallytakers, and lays three low with a single blow of arcing lightning. The fight surges back and forth, but the Tallytakers get the worst of it. Brazenborn falls to Ettorio’s cinquedea, his lieutenants are struck down in the main area, and the bolter perishes at last to a Sespech curse.
As the chaos dies down, Carenza offers her services to Ettorio and Vesper. They accept, stating that at the very least it’d be useful to have one more voice when they reach the Prince’s court. Some negotiation with the inn’s staff arranges for the burial of the dwarf bodies, fine rooms and good wine in exchange for the Tallytaker weapons and armor, and assorted luxuries such as hot baths and warm company.